Karnataka dismiss Delhi within one session, replacement Sreenath Aravind stars
End of Day 1. Karnataka 131/3 (Agarwal 56, Samarth 53) lead Delhi (Pant 24, Aravind 4/12) by 41 runs.
Thursday has been a big day for cricket in India. Not only is the national team playing New Zealand in Delhi in the 2nd ODI of their 5-match series, one of the biggest first-class matches of the domestic season also got underway at the Eden Gardens – the face-off between Group B heavyweights Delhi and Karnataka. Featuring seven India internationals and at least four others who are heavily tipped to make their international debuts soon, Delhi and Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy match was always going to be the summit clash in Group B.
Placed currently at 1st place in the group, Delhi were seeing the return of veterans Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma in the team for the first time in the season. Karnataka were seeing the return of Karun Nair to the team, who was also given his captaincy debut, in place of the injured Vinay Kumar. Another reason for the huge anticipation for the match is the presence of 19-year-old Rishabh Pant, who scored a 320-ball 308 in the last match and is currently the highest run-getter in the season.
However, things did not go according to the script that was expected. Delhi was bowled out in the first session on the day, for the lowest ever total against Karnataka – 90. Karun Nair’s first decision as captain was a golden touch. After he won the toss and put in the Delhi side to bat first, the first wicket of the day fell for 0, Unmukt Chand falling leg before wicket to Abhimanyu Mithun.
In the history of the Ranji Trophy, Delhi’s lowest ever score against Karnataka has been 138. On Thursday, that was to change.
Delhi bowled out in one session
Gautam Gambhir, who has a place in the India XI for the England Test series at stake, fell for an injudicious pull for 2, the captain himself pouching the catch. Pant, whose runs this season have been scored at a strike rate in excess of 100, looked in too much haste during his short stay at the crease. He received a reprieve on his very first ball, as a catch was dropped. He smashed three sixes and a four in the 20 balls that he faced.
Pant had played a lone hand for Delhi in the last match after a similar collapse, but with his departure, things looked bleak. Delhi had lost their top five batsmen with a score of 65. The rest of the wickets were cleaned up in the rest of the extended morning session, Delhi getting all out for 90.
Though most of the Delhi batsmen had played into their opponents’ hands, the star of the show for Karnataka was left arm seamer Sreenath Aravind. Aravind, whose lone India appearance had been in the South Africa series last year, was only in the Karnataka XI because of the injury to Vinay Kumar. Playing his first match of the season, Aravind's figures read 11-7-12-4.
Ishant’s woeful return to action sums up Delhi’s day
Ishant Sharma, who is returning to action after a chikungunya layoff, started Delhi’s bowling innings. There was no similar flood of wickets in Karnataka’s innings though. Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth batted through the entire second session and well into the third session, before a breakthrough was brought about by seamer Vikas Tokas.
Ishant Sharma bowled 10 overs in the day, spread over four short spells. He conceded 34 runs in his 10 overs, and was the most expensive of the bowlers on the day. Ishant will be hoping he can put in a better performance in the rest of the match, so that he can earn his place in the India XI back from the trio of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Samarth (53), who is batting after his career best score of 235 achieved in the last match, and Agarwal (56) were both picked up by Tokas in the third session, and Robin Uthappa fell cheaply for 5 too. The day ended with Karun Nair and Abhimanyu Mithun at the crease, Karnataka ahead of Delhi by 41 runs.
The first innings lead has been secured already, and it has come far more easily than Karnataka would have envisaged. They have 7 wickets in hand and will be looking to bat as long as they can to put the pressure of a possible innings defeat on Delhi. As for the Gambhir-led side, they will be looking for a revival of big proportions after the unexpectedly poor show on Day 1.